One City

Amy-Winehouse18.jpgAmy Winehouse is one of many celebs who has put down the pipe and picked up a mala. photo courtesy of

Before Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at age 35 he was a
confused twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a
spiritual life. He had an overbearing dad, expectations for what he was
supposed to do
with his life, drinks were flowing, lutes were playing, and the
ladiezzz were all about him. Some called him L.L. Cool S. I imagine
close friends just referred to him as Sid.

Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid
as a confused guy struggling with his daily life. What would he do as a
young person trying to find love, cheap drinks, and fun in a city like
New York? We all make mistakes on our spiritual journey; here is where
they’re discussed.

Each week I’ll take on a new question and
give some advice based on what I think Sid, a confused guy working on
his spiritual life in a world of major distraction, would do. Because
let’s face it, you and I are Sid.

Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and I’ll probably get to it!


Q: My friend just moved to New York City and is doing lots of drugs. What would Sid say about drug use? – L.N.

When Sid became the Buddha he started a whole monastic order and gave them five precepts, the last of which was “No intoxicants – they lead to carelessness.” Fair enough for monastics 2500 years ago, but what about us lay folk today? I mean, the Buddha gave another precept which includes no lying but I’m sure when he was Sid he told his wife that she looked plenty thin in those jeans.

Here’s my deductive reasoning for the day: the Buddha based his teachings on the truths he discovered through his experience. He also said that intoxicants lead to carelessness and should be avoided. Thus I’m led to believe Sid must have gotten shwasted from time to time on whatever the local flavor was in order to know that these intoxicants aren’t helpful to one’s path. Some of us may feel the need to follow in his footsteps and see if that’s true for us too.

So from one perspective yeah, drugs are not a great way to go. They can send you on crazy trips or get you super aggressive. It’s hard to maintain one’s mindfulness when the world is breathing colors. On the flip side I imagine Sid had to experience the effects of intoxicants in order to know they weren’t for him.

With that in mind here’s some tips on how Sid might approach drug use:

1) If you think you’re having some sort of experience, acknowledge it, see it for what it is, and come back to the present moment.

More often than not people get all excited that they’re experiencing something other than their humdrum life while on drugs and want to solidify that experience into something real. It’s not real. It’s the drugs. So don’t get too attached. And don’t consider your temporary experience a deep spiritual achievement because you didn’t do anything to achieve it but put some mushrooms in your mouth and gulp.

2) Bring a level of precision to what you’re doing.

We can look at why we are taking drugs. Is it an escape from something you don’t want to deal with or just something you want to try out with close friends? Look at your motivation before leaping in. And while you’re engaging your drug(s) of choice keep reflecting on your experience and try (try!) to bring a sense of mindfulness to it. Watch what it does to your mind.

3) Take it easy.

I would always recommend the buddy system when trying out drugs so you feel you have a safe container for whatever exploration you’re going on. And watch your tendency to blow more and more money and time on drugs. That ain’t healthy. Please, no addictions. Please.

On one hand taking drugs can be seen as counter to engaging reality as it is so I can’t imagine Sid being a big fan of hitting the pipe on the regular. On the other, if you’re going to do it be safe. And whatever you do, don’t accept candy from stangers.

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